LADDHA: The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan split into two factions after a major group based in South Waziristan quit the TTP and accused its leadership of having fallen into invisible hands and turning the TPP into an organisation providing safety to criminals.

“We announce separation from the TTP leadership which has deviated from its path”, Azam Tariq, spokesman for commander Khan Said alias Sajna, said in a statement.

The new group will be led by Sajna who would now be known as Khalid Mahsud, it said.

It accused the TTP leadership led by Mulla Fazlullah, the fugitive commander from Swat believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, of indulging in a baseless propaganda campaign against Afghan Taliban.

“Besides, other brother Jihadi organisations like Al Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban have been harassed with interference in their organisational affairs,” another statement separately issued by the Sajna group said.

It accused the TTP leadership of indulging in robberies, killing for money, extortion and kidnapping for ransom with the help of a group of conspirators.

It also accused the TTP leadership of killing religious scholars, extorting huge amounts of money from madressahs, carrying out bombings at public places on payment of money “from outside” and accepting responsibility for the bombings under assumed names and creating discord among different militant groups.

“It is now an established fact that they are using the TTP’s platform for their vested interests,” the statement said.

It pledged allegiance to the Afghan Taliban leadership and said the Sajna group would continue the policy of slain TPP leader Baitullah Mehsud to establish Caliphate.

It said extortion, kidnapping for ransom and bombing of public places were anti-Islam acts and invited all Muslims to join them in jihad.

There was no word from TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid on the allegations.

Significantly, Azam Tariq’s statement also referred to the bombing of shrines and killing of Mashaikhs and accused the TTP leadership of trying to impose its own creed and beliefs on others.

This, according to analysts, is an indication of a split on ideological grounds between the Punjpeeri and Deobandi schools of thought.

“This will have a snow-balling effect,” said Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former bureaucrat who is a member of the government committee for holding the now-stalled peace talks with the TTP.

“The split may end the centrality of the TTP leadership and lead to further disintegration,” he said. “It may make it easy for the government to hold talks with those who want peace and take on anti-statement elements.”

The dramatic announcement came after more than a month of clashes between two factions led by Sajna and Sheheryar Mehsud, in which more than 50 fighters from both sides have been killed.

Senior leaders of the TTP and Afghan Taliban tried unsuccessfully to broker a truce between the two sides. Both groups are led by Mehsud tribal commanders from South Waziristan which has served as the headquarters of the TTP.

“Sajna has the support of a large number of Mehsuds and foreign fighters and also enjoys the backing of Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network,” a security official said.

“The split will have its impact. We may now see intensification in fighting between the two groups which will not remain confined to South and North Waziristan,” he said.

“It will also have its reverberation elsewhere, including Karachi,” he said, adding that the country’s financial hub was a major source of funds raised by militant groups through extortion.

The split is one of the most serious setbacks for the TTP which was already shaken by the death of its leaders, including its founder Baitullah Mahsud in a US drone strike in Aug 2009.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2014

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